Winter Storm Inga

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Winter Storm Inga barreled through Texas, and much of the south, a few days ago. It could have very well been rain, but it was timed (not so) perfectly with an arctic front coming through the area. The day started off above freezing, but the temperatures quickly dropped, and with it came the most dangerous form of precipitation – ice.

Schools started announcing closures on Monday evening, including the University of Houston. This was kind of interesting, because this is twice now that school has closed at the beginning of a semester, before for Hurricane Harvey.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I looked outside and saw that there was already a coating of ice everywhere. I emailed my boss, and he said to work from home. Thank goodness I was in a position to do that.

There is usually always a bit of uncertainty when it comes to a weather forecast, but Inga lived up to the hype. Roads quickly became ice skating rinks, and that was mixed with periods of snow too.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in a two day period, Houston police responded to nearly 1,000 accidents. Also, weather.com noted that, because of Inga’s contribution to snow in the south, all lower 48 states now have snow cover. Pretty cool!

Thankfully I was off on Wednesday to begin with, and UH closed down for Wednesday too, because the day started off so cold that the ice did not begin to melt until noon. In the middle of the night, Houston was 19 degrees. The last time the temperature was in the teens was 1996!

Also, according to local news channel abc13.com, “It has snowed three times in the winter of 2017-2018, marking the second time in Houston it has snowed three times in one winter. In the winter of 1973, it snowed three times.” (I would personally say, at least for our area, it only snowed twice. The other time was more like a short period of sleet.)

In a few days, it will be 68 degrees. I guess the saying does ring true in some places. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day!

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Christmas eve in Galveston

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I was off on Christmas eve, and the weather called for a beautiful day – sunny and 68 degrees. Hmm. What could we do? Last year we went out to the park, so I didn’t want to do the same thing. Then I thought, what about Galveston? A winter’s day is the best time to convince (drag) Derek to the beach with me, since he has less of a chance to get burnt. Derek and the strong sun on a beach do not mix.

We did everything on a whim, and we ended up getting lucky a few times. For instance, we arrived about a half hour before the shops on the Strand opened, so I suggested walking to the pier. There, we saw a pod of dolphins!

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After that, we moseyed on back to the Strand, and made our way through the shops. At about 10:25, I suggested to go to LaKing’s Confectionery for coffees. When we got there, we saw a sign that said the next taffy pull demonstration would be at 10:30!

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We enjoyed the Christmas decorations, and took some Christmas type photos of our own with props that we brought with us.

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The last lucky thing of the day was happening upon a sandman!

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We both had a great day. Perhaps we can make this a new Christmas tradition?

USS Texas

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The USS Texas is located in the same spot as the San Jacinto Monument and battlefield, so we combined both attractions in one day. Here is the link to my post about the battlefield and monument. https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/san-jacinto-monument-and-battlefield/

The USS Texas was in service in both WWI and WWII. The USS Texas is the only remaining battleship that participated in both wars.

I really didn’t know what to expect about the USS Texas, but I was surprised in a good way. Even though a lot of the ship is blocked off because of restorations, we still felt like we had reign of most of the ship. Exploring all over is encouraged. We were going up and down hall ways, getting lost around corners, and going up and down all sorts of stair cases.

My favorite was seeing the beds, (yikes, couldn’t have been that comfortable sleeping) the soda fountain, and just other aspects of their daily life such as the barber shop and the dentist. Some of the machine guns on the top deck were steerable, so you could climb on up and aim the guns around!

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San Jacinto Monument and Battlefield

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San Jacinto Battlefield, about 20 miles from where we live, on the outskirts of the city, is the site where Texans won their independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836.

Any time someone found out I was into history, they recommended coming to the site.

The highlight of the battlefield is a large monument, larger than Washington monument in D.C. I guess everything really is BIGGER in Texas.

Driving up to the battlefield, we could see the monument from a few miles away. Derek commented that it was awful that there was so much built up right around it (it is right on the bustling ship channel) but that’s really no different than what you would see at Gettyburg. Once we were on the battlefield inside the park, the ship channel seemed further away.

The battle was a surprise attack and lasted 18 minutes.  The General of the Mexican Army, Santa Anna, was captured. In exchange for his freedom, he signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.

There is a small museum in the base of the monument. Admission is free, but you can pay for extra exhibits and a 20 minute film. We paid to go to the observation level.

Afterwards, we took one of the few trails through the battlefields and found some monuments. The walk would have lasted longer, but being near the ship channel, the mosquitoes were out and we got bitten a lot! After that we stuck to driving around in the car.

It was a good day trip and we learned some more Texas history. It was great that it was so close to the city. After the battlefield we headed on over to the USS Texas, which was right across from the monument. Stay tuned for a post about that.

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This iron spike, found in the ground where Santa Anna camped, may have been used to secure his tent.

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Personal items belonging to Stephen Austin (whom the capitol of Austin, Texas is named after.)

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Personal items belonging to Sam Houston. Houston fought in the battle, and later became the president of the Republic of Texas. When Texas became a state, he served as governor.

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View from the observation floor.

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Snow in Houston

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It has snowed 35 times in Houston since 1895, the last time in 2009. That number seems like a lot, but I have to remind myself that in Wellsboro, it could easily flurry every other day all winter long. So 35 times in 122 years is rare. And we were here to experience the 35th time.

On Thursday, it was forecasted that there could be a 5 percent chance for it to snow overnight. Well the forecasters had a field day with that. I like all of the local news channels pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and it was all anyone could talk about. The chances got greater – up to 20 percent! The excitement was growing. You think I’m kidding.

I woke up the next morning and opened up the blinds, and was initially disappointed when I looked below and saw only wet sidewalks, but then I noticed that the tops of the bushes were white. Yes, we did get snow! And pandemonium ensued. I thought just the anticipation was crazy.

I’ve seen enough snowfall to last a lifetime, but throughout the day I probably looked through hundreds of snow photos and videos, feeling just as happy as everyone else. I even made my own mini snowman. I saw a post that circulated around the internet that said: “Hosted the Superbowl. Survived Hurricane Harvey. Won the World Series. Played in the snow. What a year, Houston!” It made me laugh, but I can understand how Houstonians are feeling. I had a friend tell me, “Perhaps this happy weather event can provide some healing from the bad weather event.” Seeing grown adults excited on Friday morning, I think she is right.

I said when we moved here that I wanted to experience snow here just once, to see how everyone else reacted, and I was not disappointed. Now that we’ve had a few days of cold and snow, I’m reminded of one of the major reasons why I wanted to move here in the first place. It went back up to 60 degrees a few days later, and I am totally okay with that.

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Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

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We spent a day in Dallas at the end of October. We were there because Derek was a speaker at the National College Media Convention. I went with him, partly because he wanted me there for support, and partly because I found online, and fell in love with, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens,

For some background context, I have been missing fall. It’s not like it was some elaborate season that we celebrated back in Pennsylvania, but I was still craving fall, and everything that came with it.

So, a few months ago, I stumbled upon the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens when searching for things to do in Dallas, for a weekend trip next summer. Turns out that they do this amazing themed pumpkin village every fall, (this year’s theme was Wizard of Oz) and damn, now I wanted to go. But a trip in the fall would never be possible, due to my working weekends, and Derek’s school schedule.

But then Derek was chosen as a speaker, and his session was first thing on a Friday morning. My work week starts on a Friday, so it would have worked out for us to drive up to Dallas on Thursday night. I had personal days that I needed to use anyway, so I said, why not?

Derek’s session went well, and the gardens exceeded my expectations. It was great to get away for the day, see something new and spend the day together, which is rare now! Here are some photos.

We will go back to Dallas, probably sometime this summer, and we will probably go back again, because I imagine it looks different each season.

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Aunt Susie’s visit

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Aunt Susie came to visit for three days. It was a short visit, yes, but we crammed a ton of activities into those three days! We both had a lot of fun, and it came at the right time. It felt good to take a short break and forgot about other things currently going on. It was great because, while I took her to a bunch of things that I was familiar with, I also got to see and do some new things myself too.

On the first day I took Aunt Susie to Cavenders, which is a family owned boot and western wear store. She bought a shirt, and I cried over every pair of boots that I can’t afford, haha. Christmas is coming…

Then we went to the Arboretum, and I took her to the meadow trail to see the swamp sunflowers that were still in bloom.

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After the Arboretum, we went to Downtown and I showed her Discovery Green. I was excited to see The Color Condition, which is the latest art installation.

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Day two was the beach. A drive to Galveston is not complete with a stop at Buc-ees! She loved it. She bought a Buc-ee Bever keychain, a shirt and pajama shorts.

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It was great beach weather. A little chilly in the morning, so we had sweatshirts on, but the afternoon was perfect. We basically had the beach to ourselves for the first few hours, but then more people came by lunch time. We found a dead jellyfish on the beach. I had never seen one before.

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We had lunch at a place called Fish Tales, which is right across the street from the pier. The restaurant had a great outdoor patio on the second floor. I got the shrimp po boy sandwich and it was huge! Will probably eat there again.

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We checked out Murdochs, which is an old gift shop that is right over the water. They had a little bit of everything inside. Aunt Susie bought a shirt for Uncle Paul there. They also have their own bar, where you can get drinks and snacks, and a patio for you to enjoy them on. They sure do know how to bring in business!

We walked around the Hotel Galvez for a bit. It is a beautiful hotel, but supposedly haunted. Apparently it used to be an orphan’s asylum, but most of the children died in the 1900 hurricane. Spooky.

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From Hotel Galvez we took the motorized trolley to the Strand for some shopping. The island is currently working on getting the train trolleys up and running for next summer, but have the motorized ones in the mean time. It costs $1 to ride it each way, which I think is a good deal, instead of having to move the car and pay more in a lot.

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Our last day was the Houston Zoo and Hermann Park. Some of the highlights of the zoo were getting to see some of the big cats up close, and Aunt Susie feeding the giraffes. We took the train ride around Hermann park.

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The fun seemed like it ended all too soon, but she will be back, this time with my parents too, in March. She said she had a great time and a good first impression of Houston and Galveston. She said she wants to move to Galveston now… I would be okay with that!